Written by Jamie Glazov
By Jamie Glazov
Friday, March 07, 2008
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Kenneth Levin, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Princeton-trained historian, and a commentator on Israeli politics. He is the author of the new book The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.
FP: Kenneth Levin, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
Levin: A pleasure to be with you once again.
FP: Dr. Levin, ever since Israel withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has used Gaza as a launching pad for its campaign of genocide against Israel and its citizens. Hamas has been firing rockets (about 2,000 so far) from Gaza into Israel, especially on the town of Sderot, with the objective of killing as many Jewish civilians as possible. It has done so from within civilian areas. The Israeli government failed to answer these attacks until just recently, when it finally showed resolve to defend its own citizens and launched some attacks and killed over 100 Hamas terrorists.
Now, very typically, much of the international community, including the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moo, is condemning Israel, as if Jews do not have the right to defend themselves. Criticism of Hamas's terrorism is almost non-existent.
I would like to discuss these matters with you today and their significance.
Let’s begin, first, with the havoc that Hamas has wreaked on Israel since the withdrawal from Gaza. Can you describe this reign of terror for us?
Levin: Israeli communities near Gaza, most notably Sderot, a town of about 24,000, have been subjected to continuous Kassam rocket attacks, with, as you noted, the rocket count numbering in the thousands. While the residents try to maintain some semblance of normality in their lives, they know that all of them are the targets of Hamas's genocidal strategy and that their situation is anything but normal.
Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 situated about 11 miles from Gaza, has occasionally also been hit by Kassam rockets; but in recent days, as Hamas has received, apparently from Iran, Grad rockets, larger and with greater range, the terror organization has targeted Ashkelon with more dangerous bombardments, widening the target area for its campaign aimed at mass murder of civilians.
FP: So Israel withdraws from Gaza as a gesture of goodwill to Palestinians and the Palestinians use the opportunity to wage a campaign of genocide against Israelis.
Can you explain Israel 's belated response to two years of Hamas's aggression? Why did it wait so long?
Levin: You're correct, of course, about Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in August, 2005, having yielded only increased Palestinian aggression. Hamas's seizure of full control of Gaza in June, 2007, led to a further escalation both in the smuggling of weapons into Gaza and in attacks across the border into Israeli towns and villages.
Explanations for Israeli reluctance to undertake a full-scale campaign to end Hamas's aggression vary according to the Israeli official discussing the question. The most coherent answer is that the only effective way to stop Hamas is to retake control of Gaza, which is something Israel is very reluctant to do because it is not interested in assuming responsibility for Gaza's million plus inhabitants.
One idea floated by some Israeli leaders is to capture Gaza, deplete Hamas's ranks and destroy its infrastructure, and hand the area over to international forces, such as a NATO contingent. But NATO is unlikely to want to accept such an assignment; an international force would more likely be under UN auspices.
In any case, introduction of an international force would inevitably work against Israeli interests. It would have the effect of giving Hamas a protective shield behind which it could rebuild and resume attacks on Israel while hamstringing Israel's ability to respond out of concern for harming or clashing with members of the international contingent. This is, in fact, the situation in southern Lebanon, even with the more robust international force put in place in the wake of the summer, 2006, war.
Hezbollah has replenished its rocket and missile arsenal and rebuilt many of its emplacements, including south of the Litani River - the area from which, according to the international force's explicit charge, Hezbollah was to be prevented from reestablishing its former strongholds. Hezbollah may have some decreased freedom of action on the border with Israel, but it is still reconstituting its assets largely unhindered and has effectively intimidated the "robust" international force by such acts as its attacking and killing a number of Spanish soldiers. Meanwhile, the presence of foreign soldiers will complicate Israel's response to any future Hezbollah assault.
Another idea floated in Israel with regard to Gaza is to seize the area and hand it over to Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority. But this would mean expending Israeli lives to give control of Gaza to another group that, like Hamas, aspires to Israel's destruction and mounts terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Abbas's troops, if given Gaza, may not be able to prevent Hamas from rebuilding, but in any case the PA and its forces present threats to the Jewish state hardly less significant than Hamas's.
Yet another suggestion by some Israelis is to push Egypt to intervene and take responsibility for Gaza. This idea has gained increased attention since Hamas's demolition of the Gaza-Egypt border barrier at Rafah and breakout into Sinai in January. Egypt, which has allowed Hamas to smuggle arms and fighters into Gaza and even assisted in the smuggling, has no great interest in assuming control of Gaza.
But Hamas, which is in effect the Palestinian branch of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist opposition to the Mubarak government, does represent a threat to Mubarak's regime, and Egypt, particularly if encouraged to do so by the United States, could decide that it's in its interest to take a greater role in Gaza. If it did so, it is capable of imposing its will on the area.
All these various alternatives present problems for Israel, with most being useless and dangerous. Another approach would be for Israel to enter in force to destroy Hamas and, after doing so, remain in those areas in the north of Gaza that put Israeli towns and villages within rocket range. Some of these northern areas have virtually no inhabitants, while others are populated and arrangements would have to be made for disposition of the local population.
Taking and holding northern Gaza would be only a temporary solution, as Hamas would ultimately reconstitute itself in areas further south and gain access to rockets and missiles with longer range. But it would at least temporarily resolve the current intolerable situation in which Israel's government is failing in its most basic responsibility, the protection of its citizenry from attack.
FP: Why the double standard in the international community’s and in the world’s mainstream media’s response to Israel defending itself? The New York Times, for instance, is in effect supporting Hamas (i.e. Steven Erlanger's piece in the Times).
Levin: On the question of why the double standard of the international community, and much of the world's media, in its barely criticizing Palestinian targeting of Israeli civilians while castigating Israel for any steps to protect its population, this bias has various strands. Of course, the Arab and broader Muslim blocs wield tremendous power in United Nations institutions and use their power to pervert those institutions to incessant attacks on Israeli actions of any sort and indeed on Israel's very existence.
Much of the rest of the world, eager to ingratiate itself with Arab regimes, not least out of deference to Arab wealth and control of a large percentage of the world's oil, is more than willing to sacrifice Israel, and principle, to its own interests, while hypocritically claiming moral principle for doing so. Within Europe, age-old anti-Jewish bias, a titillating gratification in comparing Israel to the Nazis and thereby diminishing the significance of Europe's annihilation of its Jews, and a desire to appease Arab and broader Muslim opinion, all translate into condemnation of Israel for any effort at self-defense.
Currently popular leftist cant, which contorts the reality of Israel as somehow representative of European imperialism and the reality of Palestinian and broader Arab terror worship, with its explicitly genocidal goals vis-a-vis Israel, as the embodiment of sweetness and light, is another factor in the world's bias against Israel. Yet another element of leftist bias relates to Israel's being an ally of the United States and therefore worthy only of condemnation, again whatever it does to defend itself.
FP: You have pinpointed the many difficult risks that Israel faces in terms of Gaza. At the same time, Israel must ultimately achieve one thing for the sake of self-preservation and real peace: the destruction of Hamas. What is the scenario that it will act to do so?
Levin: The present Israeli government, which is focused solely on its own survival, will likely act to destroy Hamas only at the point when it is clear that public sentiment demands action and that continued inaction will threaten its survival. Unfortunately, it may well act then without any coherent strategy but with the piecemeal, spur of the moment and terribly flawed approach that characterized its handling of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. The army is better prepared than it was then, but there has been no improvement in the political leadership.
Whenever Israel acts, and whatever the additional provocation, in terrorist assaults, to its doing so, it will likely have little support from the wider world and will be condemned in the United Nations, which - in its indifference to the promotion of terror and genocide against Israel, whether by Palestinians, other Arabs, or Iran - has become the monster it was created to fight.
FP: If the Palestinians eliminated their terrorist infrastructure and never attacked Israelis, Israel would never engage in any military operations against Palestinians at all. This is just a given. I know you have already touched on this, but can you touch a bit more on why the international criticism of Israel continues -- instead of the Palestinians being pressured to de-terrorize their own society and culture?
Levin: Of course you are absolutely correct that if the Palestinians gave up their terror campaign against Israel, ended their incitement in media, mosques and schools to Israel's destruction, and built civil institutions as a foundation for a state living in peace beside Israel instead of devoting all their resources, including international contributions, to the pursuit of Israel's annihilation, there would be no military action by Israel and peace would ensue. But this truth has no impact on anti-Israel opinion.
Israel can expect little from the international community, even as much of the world faces threats similar to those confronting the Jewish state. The bigotry of the UN, myriad NGO's the EU and many nations, including in Europe, toward Israel has hardly been moderated by the growth of the Islamist threat worldwide. Indeed, to a large degree the opposite is true: the growth of the Islamist threat has led many to a greater eagerness to sacrifice Israel to its enemies in the deluded hope of thereby moderating the threat to themselves.
That is not to say that the world refuses entirely to recognize that only the building of civil institutions as the foundation of a stable Palestinian state can end the conflict and that as long as the Palestinians are more interested in destroying Israel than in establishing their own state the conflict will persist.
The United States has called for the constructing of civil institutions by the Palestinians as a necessary prelude to peace, and former British prime minister Tony Blair's original mandate in his role as international Middle East peace envoy was to aid in the construction of such institutions. But in the face of Palestinian and wider Arab resistance and demands for "progress" toward establishment of a state on Palestinian terms, that agenda of necessary civil prerequisites has largely been pushed aside. Instead the focus has shifted to reaching a final agreement, with the figleaf that such an agreement will only be a "horizon" that will inspire the Palestinians to end their dedication to Israel's destruction and instead build a normal, peaceful state for themselves.
FP: The Palestinians are actually calling their terrorism against Israel "Resistance" -- when Israel has withdrawn from Gaza. This shows that their agenda is to wipe out the Jewish state. And Gaza has become the military base of that genocide plan, right?
Levin: You're right on all points.
Israel expected that its full departure from Gaza in 2005 would lead to decreased violence and be a step towards peace. It did fear increased smuggling of arms across the Egypt-Gaza border after its withdrawal and initially sought to maintain control of the Philadelphi corridor along the border. But Secretary Rice's State Department pushed strongly for Israel's handing control of the border, and responsibility for preventing arms smuggling, to Egyptian forces and EU observers. Many Israelis anticipated this would be a farce.
Egypt would not work to prevent smuggling and the EU observers would flee at the first sign of violence from the Palestinians. Yet some Israeli leaders, even while being dubious about Egyptian and EU intentions, came to favor withdrawing from the border, as doing so would mean ending even more definitively Israeli control of Gaza and precluding any claim that, despite the withdrawal of all Israeli civilians and soldiers, Gaza remained under Israeli "occupation."
But, of course, that claim did not end. There may be no Israelis in Gaza, Israel may control only its own borders with Gaza while there is another border, between Gaza and Egypt, over which it has no control, yet many Palestinians and their Middle East supporters continue to declare Gaza "occupied," and their supporters worldwide parrot the claim.
And while Hamas, now in full control of Gaza, declares openly its objective of destroying Israel, educates its young to pursue that end, and actively wages war against Israel, Israel is expected to open its borders fully to goods entering and leaving Hamas's Gaza, and supply Hamas's Gaza with most of its electricity, and if it imposes partial embargoes against the people attacking it daily it is falsely, hypocritically condemned by the world for perpetrating humanitarian crises. For much of the world, Hamas's rocketing and killing Israelis is the proper, natural order of things, and Israel's defending itself is a crime against humanity.
FP: Your thoughts on the Bush Administration in general and Condi Rice in particular for their actions? The Bush Administration has betrayed Israel and the war on terror, hasn’t it?
Levin: Secretary of State Rice has been a major architect of the current disastrous situation. She pushed for allowing Hamas to participate in the January, 2006, Palestinian elections despite its refusal to accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and so set the stage for Hamas's election victory. She pushed for Israel's leaving the Philadelphi route and handing control and monitoring of the border to Egypt, leading to uncontrolled smuggling of arms into Gaza by terrorist organizations as well as the movement of terrorist operatives out of Gaza for training in Iran or by Iranian agents elsewhere and then back into Gaza to ply their newly learned skills against Israel. She now pushes for final status talks even in the absence of a Palestinian partner that recognizes Israel's right to exist.
Certainly, the embrace of Mahmoud Abbas as a "peace partner" and the insistence that Israel recognize him as such and negotiate a final status "peace" agreement with him reflect Bush Administration betrayal of its own principles regarding not negotiating with, but rather ostracizing and struggling against, supporters of terror. Abbas has criticized Palestinian terror in recent years but, as he explicitly states, only because he regards it as currently an ineffective tool. He makes clear that he has no moral compunctions against the Palestinians' terror war and has recently stated that he foresees future "resistance" if Palestinian demands are not met. He has recently spoken proudly of his own terrorist past and of the trail blazed by Palestinian terrorism. He declared three days of mourning for the recently deceased arch-terrorist George Habash. He continues to use the media and schools under his control to indoctrinate Palestinians, particularly Palestinian children, to pursue Israel's destruction.
The embrace of Abbas, and insistence that Israel likewise embrace him and make concessions to him, are the antithesis of the principles declared by the Bush Administration as it embarked on the war forced upon America by the 9/11 attacks.
FP: Dr. Levin thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Levin: Thank you Jamie.
FP: In terms of our discussion today on Hamas’s genocide plan against Israel, the David Horowitz Freedom Center has initiated The Declaration Against Genocide -- a campaign on American campuses calling for the condemnation of the Hamas Charter, which says: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
For all those interested in protecting Israel against the Palestinians’ genocide plan, support the Freedom Center’s new campaign and Click Here.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here.